Stacey Abrams knows our beginnings do not have to dictate who we will become. But, when we asked the candidate for Governor of the state of Georgia to share some thoughts on what she’d say to her younger self, this powerful letter is what she wrote in March of 2012.
This is a difficult letter to write. Not because I cannot find the words, but because I know how important words are. The heft and reach of language will be a guiding post for you, much as it has always been. I suppose, then, my letter to you is about the power of words. So I will talk to you about three that will matter most.
By now, you have had your heart broken and you despair of ever being in love again. Your favorite word in matters of the heart is caution. You mistakenly believe that if you are logical and deliberate, you can avoid the sullen ache of his leaving and the caustic pain of betrayal. You cannot. And caution can quickly become inaction and complacency. Do not allow caution to rob you of a glorious experience that is well-worth every dark moment that may follow. Love, my dear.
My next admonition is about regret. Have none of it. Dare to try the absurd, embrace the ridiculous and attempt the preposterous. It is in these moments of freedom that you will learn to understand yourself and the boundless capacity of your endeavors. Regret is an excuse that has no place in your vocabulary, where trying is concerned. Nothing will be as embarrassing or humiliating as wondering if you should have, could have. Be fearless in your pursuits and delight in your failures. You have a long life ahead of you and regret should have no place.
Lastly, I urge you to express gratitude. Thank those who stand with you, and those who push you to do more than you believe possible. Appreciate the ones who challenge you, forcing you to sharpen your thinking and improve your actions. Show gratitude daily for both success and defeat, because both will become companions that balance your life’s journey. When complimented, do not deflect the praise or take it too seriously. Instead, be grateful that someone cares enough to share how you’ve touched them, but don’t let it go to your head. When chastised, be gracious in accepting the critique, and find some way to improve yourself. Gratitude can change your life — and make it only for the better.
Three words, my younger self, that I hope you will add to and hold onto as the years unfold. Enjoy!